Cooper sues over law to restructure elections board

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Governor-elect Roy Cooper addresses supporters during a victory rally at N.C. State on Tuesday

RALEIGH — A judge granted Governor-elect Roy Cooper’s request on Friday for a temporary restraining order to block a law passed by the state legislature last week while his lawsuit over it is pending. Senate Bill 4, scheduled to take effect on January 1, combines the State Ethics Commission and the State Board of Elections into one of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. Under the law, Cooper as governor would appoint four members of the eight person board, two from the party with the most number of registered voters in the state and two from the party with the second most. The N.C. House and Senate appoint the remaining members, using the same party split by the number of registered voters. Currently there are more registered Democrats in N.C., followed by Republicans. The judge will take up the issue again on January 5, and Cooper’s legal team indicated plans to file additional challenges relating to the legislature’s recent special session actions to diminish executive branch powers. The new law also requires that 6 of the eight members agree on a given issue to pass it.Why I'm taking action against unconstitutional legislative overreach:— Roy Cooper (@RoyCooperNC) December 30, 2016
Under the old law, Cooper would have appointed the majority of the elections board and half of the Ethics Commission. The legislature appointed the other half. Senate leader Phil Berger said the lawsuit is a power play from the incoming governor. “Given the recent weeks-long uncertainty surrounding his own election, the governor-elect should understand better than anyone why North Carolinians deserve a system they can trust will settle election outcomes fairly and without the taint of partisanship” Berger said in a statement. “Roy Cooper’s effort to stop the creation of a bipartisan board with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans to enforce elections and ethics laws may serve his desire to preserve his own political power, but it does not serve the best interests of our state.”N.C. Board of Education sues over H.B. 17The legal action come the day after a Wake County judge blocked implementation of a law also passed during the special session that gives the incoming Republican Director of Public Instruction, Mark Johnson, more latitude in implementing public school reforms. House Bill 17 gives the superintendent more power over the budget, supervisory responsibility over charter schools and the authority to hire new leadership over low achieving schools. The lawsuit filed Thursday by the appointed State Board of Education claims that the law strips the board of its constitutional powers. Eleven of the thirteen members of the state board are appointed by the governor, now Roy Cooper. The state constitution says that “The State Board of Education shall supervise and administer the free public school system and the educational funds provided for its support, except the funds mentioned in Section 7 of this Article (county supplements), and shall make all needed rules and regulations in relation thereto, subject to laws enacted by the General Assembly.” A hearing on the State Board of Education’s lawsuit is scheduled for Friday, January 6.